– By Susan Sterner, Chair of New Media Photojournalism
Earlier this summer Chair of Photography, Muriel Hasbun, and I led the two-week photography/photojournalism class “Place and Narrative” as part of the Corcoran’s Pittman Study Away program in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This was our fourth time leading the class in which we challenge students to develop awareness about how they represent cultures, places and the lives of others when interacting for a limited period of time. It’s refreshing to get away from D.C. and into the hills of Mexico – the shock of change and promise of adventure is always a great stimulus to the senses!
For the fourth year Mexican photographer, curator and editor Pablo Ortiz Monasterio join us for the class. Pablo’s energy level and passion for photography and the meaning of images and sequences is inspiring. His approach prompts fresh thinking and risk taking in making photographs and sequencing images.
Pablo’s push to get students to work hard to communicate with photographs was underscored in his presentation of his book Mexican Portraits, (Aperture with Televisa, 2013). We draped a sheet over a wall hanging in El Oratorio, the faculty house in San Miguel, and crowded into a few sofas and soaked up the primer on Mexican history as well as Pablo’s approach to book projects. His more formal presentation at Aperture in May can be see here http://vimeo.com/66112814
Corcoran Study Away Director and head of the ceramics program, Bob Devers coordinated a great itinerary for the students ranging from visits with art collectors to homemade lunch on a ranch. He’s also an amazing cook and while we were roasting in the sun during a visit to the Canãda de la Virgen pyramids – Bob was simmering away to create a vegetarian class dinner — including his own invention of beet mole.
Over the course of two weeks students tackled readings by Lucy Lippard, Richard Rodriguez, and Octavio Paz. They were challenged to confront the assumptions and biases they carry while exploring the subjects or ideas that most engaged them. Two undergraduates and four New Media Photojournalism students insinuated themselves into the streets and lives of San Miguel – doing a pretty good job of piercing and playing with the city’s expat and tourism veneer as they worked on projects addressing themes of death, public spaces, domestic aesthetics, passion, laundry.
The process and progress of their work can be seen in more detail on the blog SalsaVerdeyCervezas (Green Salsa and Beer – a tribute to working late into the night!) https://salsaverdeycervezas.wordpress.com/
The course culminated in an exhibit at the La Aurora galleries – great fun and a hard earned celebration for all. There was little rest for the NMPJ grad students – they were tasked with creating a book sequence of their work! Now that they have lots of work and experiences from which to edit, I look forward seeing how the experience resonates as they pull together sequences of images.